You have heard it often said when life hands you a lemon then make lemonade. But what happens to those of us who are handed lemons and cannot make lemonade? Exit cliches, enter depression.
“You are mad!” “What a lunatic!” “You are crazy!”
There is all manner of names out there to describe those whose life is off the track. Sometimes, depending on where you come from in our society, mental health issues are considered worst than other illnesses.
What makes mental health and more specifically depression a difficult topic? Is there a cure for this illness? Even the media, with an informatory role, has continued to add to the stigmatization associated with depression.
Take, for instance, the situation of my friend Charles Odongo who is a graduate from Kenyatta University with a second-class upper division degree in Political Science. Since graduation, he has not been successful in securing a job. After staying in Nairobi for close to one year and suffering in his relative’s house, he finally called it quits and left for his village. He is frustrated. He feels betrayed. He is hurt when his friends prosper and he remains in poverty. Of late, he has been recording videos on social media accusing the Kenyan government of being corrupt and blaming politics for his problems. He records a minimum of 5 videos daily. All the signs are there. Depression has found a safe abode in him. Instead, he has been branded a “lunatic”
Jacinta (not her real name) can be found in her small room crying herself to sleep. On other occasions, she would be talking to herself on her way to the shop. Passerbys would easily avoid her and brand her, “a well-dressed, beautiful madwoman” But, those who know her story wish her nothing but the best. They hope that she would soon get hold of her depression.
She was a great enthusiast, once in her teenage life. Her future was promising. She worked hard and smart. Her decisions were well-calculated. Her classmates will tell you that she was razor-sharp and very competitive. She had insisted on following her childhood dream of becoming an interior designer even though she qualified for other highly graded courses.
It is her ambition that pushed her to apply as an AU pair in Germany. Au pair is a young foreign person, usually a woman, who travels to another country and lives with a family in order to learn their language and who takes care of children or cleans the house in return for meals, a room and some money.
She successfully managed to live with the family. She also found time to do a course in hospital management. She got a job, worked hard and saved some money. After 5 years of staying abroad, she came back with her savings and tried to invest. She was not successful even though she tried different businesses. The course she had pursued abroad didn’t get recognition in Kenya. Finding a job in Kenya was very difficult, when she did find something, it was on contractual basis, often just 3 months.
She was 5 months pregnant when she started feeling the pain of being broke to the extent of missing food. Meanwhile, her relationship had also suffered greatly after she found out about her fiancé’s affair. By the time she gave birth, she had gotten into depression, she had no job, her landlord wanted her out and she almost had nothing to eat. It is in this confusion that people thought that she had become mad. Depression had gained its foothold on her. She is now slowly, beginning to see it for what it is.
The media hasnt helped the situation much. According to Anne Mawathe, a veteran journalist, who is currently the BBC Africa Health Editor says the media needs to do a better job in highlighting these issues.
‘’Our role should remain basic. We are informing, educating and empowering our audience. When we use stigmatising pictures, they are just as damaging as the derogatory words we use to elaborate on mental health issues. For instance, when we use a rope to discuss suicide, have we empowered the public? No. We can do a better job. We can be more responsible”
Society has refused to accept mental health to be like any other disease. If you dare say that you are in a mental facility without even mentioning why you are there, the highest number of reactions will be…. “he has gone mad, he snapped, so and so has become a maniac.
When did he/she crack?”.If you think this is a joke, ask my friend, the Digital Humanitarian Philip Ogola. We were seated discussing mental health health in a forum when he decided to do a social experiement. On his Twitter account, he said he had checked into Mathari Hospital because he felt unwell and wanted to be checked. Netizens went all out on him, some supporting him for his move while others labled him ‘Mwenda wazimu’ or the mad one.
There is more to the casual way society looks at depression. It is a major illness that has a direct impact on different spheres of our lives including sleeping, eating, social lives among others. If not treated, depression can last for years.
In reaching out for treatment, there are three main methods ;
(c) Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Do not hesitate to seek help for depression. It is the only way you will begin to feel better.